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Nepal Court Sentences Pastor to 10 Years in Jail on Rape Charges

Friday, September 7, 2018, 19:28 (IST)

Nepal court on June 7 sentenced a 63-year-old pastor to 10 years in prison on rape accusations the complainant later renounced.

Pr Govinda Prasad Dhakal was sentenced upon conviction for "frequently raping a minor" he and his wife had adopted in 2016. His family and the church leaders denied the allegation, citing an attempt by the alleged victim's family to extort lump sum money from him with a false accusation.

"We are not happy to see the verdict, because everything was pre-decided," Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN), told Morning Star News.

Police arrested Dhakal last year on Dec. 12, based on the mother's statement.

Later the complainant, the now-12-year-old girl's mother, confessed before the court that she had fabricated the rape story in revenge for the pastor's refusal to pay the girl's school fees after the girl returned to her care, a source that witnessed the courtroom proceedings said.

Prabhushanta Dhakal, the pastor's younger son, also witnessed the courtroom proceedings, according to MSN. He said the mother expressed remorse, saying she didn't intend to send the pastor to the jail.

Despite her confession, the court failed to yield in its determination to convict Dhakal, the pastor.

The court noted that the alleged victim initially said that Dhakal raped her, so the court has the liberty to ignore the mother's retraction and other evidence, Prabhushanta Dhakal told MSN.

Dhakal was also fined 2,000 Nepalese rupees (US$18).

"We are forced to believe that the judge passed an unfair judgment because Govinda is a Christian, otherwise there was no other reason for such a verdict, especially when the accusers themselves had confessed before the court that they were hoping to make a huge amount of money by putting a false charge against Govinda," said Subedi.

"Secondly, we are led to believe that he was not given a clean chit due to our stand of 'no bribing,'" he added.

Pr B.P. Khanal, head pastor of The Lord's Assembly and a social activist, told MSN that the medical report of the alleged rape victim presented in court favored the pastor.

Two other adopted girls living with the Dhakal family, Sonia, 13, and Mithu Maya, 14, also gave statements against the pastor.

However, Prabhushanta Dhakal said that the alleged victim and the other two girls were under pressure from a Hindu woman, Meena Kharel, a member of a child welfare committee who operates an orphanage, opposes Christianity

The oldest of the family's adopted children, 15-year-old Amrita, told the court that Dhakal never misbehaved with her, and that she never saw him misbehave with other girls.